Turning Over Stones
By David Kattenburg
Drug-resistant bacteria – microbes impervious to antibiotics – are one of humanity’s great emerging threats. They just pop up, in response to the antibiotics we douse them with. What doesn’t kill them makes them stronger.
Bacteria resistant to most or all antibiotics – superbugs, they’re called – just laugh at whatever we throw at them. And they’re causing mayhem around the world. According to the US Center for Disease Control, almost three million Americans fall prey to antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, and 35,000 die.
On the bright side, mounting defenses against drugs comes at a cost. It takes energy for a bacterium to defend itself. Stop exposing it, and its defenses go down. A nice thought, but we need drugs, right?
So, in a constant game of cat and mouse, medical science is constantly searching for novel drugs that the bugs haven’t seen yet. Drug discovery costs money, and takes lots of imagination.
Now, a group of researchers at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario, have turned over an interesting stone, so to speak.
Now that cannabis is legal here in Canada, the McMaster researchers have been prospecting for antibacterial cannabinoids, and they’ve come up with something: cannabigerol. CBG.
CBG is non-psychoactive. But, unlike those drugs mother gives you, that Grace Slick sang about, CBG actually does do something – to bacteria. It messes up their boundary membranes, weakening them and making them fall apart at the seams.
Even better, in combination with the well-known drug Polymyxin, CBG is effective against Gram-negative bacteria. Gram negatives like Pseudomonas and Acenitobacter have an outer membrane system that blocks antibiotics, or pumps them out. Weakening that outer Gram negative membrane with Polymyxin, then exposing them to CBG, is like a one-two punch.
Eric Brown and his colleagues at McMaster have inhibited the growth of various Gram-negatives in just this way. In the fight against drug-resistant superbugs, its definitely a stone worth turning.
Listen to our conversation here: